3 Moves Guaranteed to Reduce Low Back Pain

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  Whatever you do to reduce this pain never seems to work right.  You take ibuprofen, try to stretch in some way, even stand once-in-awhile to take the pressure off.  All to no avail and the vicious cycle continues.  I promise you are not alone in this struggle!

Let’s face it, your job description is not changing to give you more freedom away from that laptop, phone, and tablet.  So you have to do something different for pain relief than before or it is the definition if insanity.  Only because you haven’t studied like I have, do you understand which muscles to strengthen and which ones to stretch.  Luckily for you I took the guesswork out and created a self-paced course you can follow online.  It is simple to follow, easy to understand, and guaranteed or your money back after completing it, if you do not get the results you desire.  The course is Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  Click on over to it and take a look.

Today, I’m sharing a little secret from it and giving three movements you can do from home to help alleviate that nasty low back pain! 

Erector Spinae Stretch
  • Prone floor cobra – lay face down on the floor, your arms are at your sides with palms down.  Slowly raise your chest off the floor, squeezing your glutes and shoulder blades together.  Keep your face looking down and head aligned with your spine.  Hold for a count at the top of the movement and lower yourself down in a controlled motion.  Some people also lift their legs to activate their glutes, and that is fine also.  Perform 15-20 reps for 1-2 sets
  • Erector spinae stretch – sit with one leg out in front of you, the other leg crossed over with your foot flat on the ground next to the knee of the extended leg.  Turn your body towards the up leg and place your opposite arm against the outside of the up leg.  Push slightly on that leg as you rotate your upper body as far as you can.  Feel the stretch on the outside of your glute and in your lower back.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds then switch.  Perform this 1-2 times per side
  • Plank trio – get into a plank position with your forearms and toes supporting your body weight.  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds depending on your strength level.  Immediate turn to one side with that forearm supporting your weight, your legs are straight with one on top of the other.  Hold this for 20-30 seconds then repeat on the other side.  Place your hand down for support if needed, and stagger your legs with each foot on the ground if more help is needed.  Perform the sequence three times with 60-90 seconds rest between each sequence
Prone floor cobra
Side plank

Some of the muscles you my know involved with low back pain are the piriformis, psoas, and erector spinae.  Sitting keeps the erector spinae and piriformis weak and overlengthened, while keeping the psoas constantly contracted and overly tight.  The muscles in your abdominal region:  obliques, transverse abdominus, and rectus abdominus, are shortened/contracted, further pulling your low back muscles into an overstretched position.  What a person has to do is stretch the ab muscles and strengthen the low back muscles.  Doing sit-ups till you can’t move after sitting on your couch with your laptop only makes the problem worse.  By lengthening and strengthening simultaneously with the plank trio, you are helping to stabilize and reduce pain in your low back. 

These three movements can be integrated into your existing workout routine or become the start of a daily healthy lifestyle regimen to feel better overall.  Your golf swing, tennis serves, squats, gardening, etc., will all benefit from these simple exercises.  Remember, my course goes over these moves and more that can make a major impact on your quality of life.  I guarantee your satisfaction after completing it or your money back, I promise.  Click Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening to sign up today!

3 Tips to Choosing a Fitness Professional For Your Exercise and Health Goals

What makes a fitness professional worth the investment?  Working out on a few machines every week isn’t that difficult right?  Adjust the settings to your size, figure out a weight to do 10 reps with for a couple sets, and you transform into a fitness model in 30 days or less guaranteed!  That’s what social media and advertisements have you to believe.

Since I was a early teenager I have been attracted to working out.  Even though I played soccer most of my life along with other sports growing up, weight training was something I knew I needed for better athletic performance and because I had little self-confidence as a thin kid.  As most teen boys wanted, I also had the desires to bulk up and look HUGE!  All I needed was to lift a bunch of heavy weights, read some bodybuilding magazines, and instant massive physique! Wrong.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, at the age of 18 I received my first gym membership after working out in my room with a curl bar and doing push-ups and pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was really doing until I studied for and became a personal trainer in 2008.  I went 15 years of bumbling along reading only the same bodybuilding magazines as a guide.  Let me guess, you have done basically the same thing with some kind of magazine and now YouTube sensation to guide you.  I’m willing to bet a large sum of money you also are still clueless and have not achieved what you want regarding your athletic performance and overall health.

A fitness professional is an investment, no doubt.  Remember that fitness professionals also made an investment in themselves by spending $400-$500 on a certification, sometimes multiple certifications.  Plus, they have continuing education credits to maintain that certification, which are also a financial investment.  Fitness professionals are not just the biggest guys and hottest girls in the gym. 

How do you know who to invest in for your health and fitness goals?  I’ll share with you three characteristics of a good fitness professional.

  • Relationship oriented: they show a true interest in their clients beyond taking their money.  You truly matter to them beyond the 30 or 60 minutes a couple times per week.
  • They are a product of their product: they “look” the part and enjoy being fit.  A fitness professional doesn’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best looking, they do need to exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle. 
  • Their own workouts are similar to what you enjoy: fitness professionals train others similarly to how they workout, it’s being human.  Watch them and see if you gravitate to their style.

Not all clients stay with the same professional, and that is fine.  Work with a few until you feel comfortable.  Ask them questions about their experiences both in fitness and life overall.  If you’re a 55- year-old male, a 27-year-old female may not understand what’s going on in your stage of life.  The relationship has to be win-win.  Fitness professionals are also counselors because our clients are in a vulnerable state and they feel comfortable sharing about their lives.  Being able to trust each other is crucial for maintaining a long-term relationship.

You are investing in their knowledge and expertise to get you where you have not been able to go.  If you’re health is worth it, then hiring a fitness professional is worth it.  Just like having a CPA.  Sure, you can do your own taxes, is it worth the risk of fines, penalties, and levies if the job isn’t done right?  Only you know the answer to that.  Your health is the same risk assessment.

For questions about my experiences with clients, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and learn how to be on the Athlete in the Game of Life Team to receive a FREE copy of my book.

What is the Best Kind of Cardio Workout?

I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts.  In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog.  The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!

Photo by Mary Taylor on Pexels.com

“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.”  If running indeed clears your headspace, then run.  For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen.  The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it.  This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point.  When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.

The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process.  This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart.  The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference.  Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities.  Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training.  In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata.  The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement.  The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website.  The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity.  Benefits of interval training:

  • Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
  • Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
  • Doesn’t need any extra equipment
  • Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component

Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients.  So, here’s your free insight!  Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment.  There’s that enjoyment piece again.  FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment!  Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity. 

Frequency is how many times per week.

Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.

Time is how long are you doing the activity.

Type is whatever activity you choose to do.

Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.

Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session:  twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.

Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.

Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples.  It loves the process and results either way.  Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it.  Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment.  I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!

For more help, please email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  My coaching programs are also available on my website.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

Reject the Resolutions in 2021!

Reject the Resolutions for 2021!  Am I crazy?  Well, yes, I am to an extent.  At least I now have your attention!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Every January is like Groundhog Day for the same resolutions that go unresolved year after year:

  • Lose 20-30 pounds by February 2nd
  • Make 20% more income by March 1st
  • Run a marathon by February 30th

Why do we put ourselves through this process like a bunch of zombies who continue down the same road?  First it starts with a mindset of making small, weekly changes that are enjoyable.  If you don’t have enjoyment in some of the process, you won’t stick to the results.  Second, forgiveness of yourself if a day or two doesn’t go as planned.  You miss a day of exercise and have a piece of cake, so what.  Your resolution isn’t done and over, to wait for another year.  Tomorrow get back on your plan like the previous day didn’t exist.  Third, be a little vaguer in your steps to achieving a goal.  If you’re goal is to lose 20 lbs and you hate jogging and early mornings, don’t set the process to running at 5:30AM, four days per week.  Go hiking (an urban hike around your town also counts) with a friend twice per week at a time that suits your mood and schedule.

Here’s an example of what changing your mindset to a healthy lifestyle looks like:

  • Exercise twice per week
  • Drink water when I’m thirsty instead of soft drinks
  • Join a group for running a 5K

These new plans are FREE, have wiggle room if you miss a day or two, and can have fun in the process.  You may look at this new list and think it’s very doable, that’s the point!  Think about your goals for 2021.  How can you create them to be enjoyable, vaguer, and attainable?  There are many right answers.

Photo by Nina Uhlu00edkovu00e1 on Pexels.com

In a study by Per Carlbring in Sweden, he analyzed two groups who made resolutions.  One group was specific and had support from friends and groups to achieve their goals.  The second group was more uncertain and received minimal to no support from groups and friends.  Believe it or not, the second group was more successful!  55% of the second group’s participants achieved their resolutions.  Another factor that led to a higher success level was trying something new instead of cutting something out, or deprivation.  When you try something new, more happiness is usually involved than depriving yourself of something that previously made you feel good, even if it wasn’t good for you.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Make 2021 a year of happiness and enjoyment to becoming healthier and more active.  2020 sucked, we all know and are ready for its continuation to end.  Start today, you don’t have to wait until Monday to add a smile to your daily ritual.  Smiling takes less effort than frowning, remember, and it matches every outfit in your closet!

For more information on how to be healthier and active in 2021, go to my website mattpeale.com, or email me at athleteinthegameofife@gmail.com.  To register for an autographed copy of my new book The Athlete in the Game of Life, download my free report on back reducing back with tips your doctor doesn’t even know.